The Original Plaque
The Compass Rose
The Story Wall
The Sculpture Group
of Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Memorial Site
- A Modern Mystery
The original plaque commemorating the arrival of Kunta Kinte
on September 29, 1767 aboard the ship Lord Ligonier
was installed in the walkway along the waters edge at the
Annapolis, Maryland City Dock in 1981. Funds to pay for
the plaque and its installation were raised by a local group
of community citizens, lead by Carl O. Snowden. Alex Haley,
the author of the Pulitzer prize-winning book Roots,
a story about Kunta Kinte and his descendants, attended
the plaque’s dedication ceremony. (See photo of Mr.
Haley's arrival at the ceremony.) Thousands of people witnessed
the historic event.
Today the whereabouts of that original plaque remain one
of the biggest mysteries of the history of Annapolis. For
within 48 hours after the dedication ceremony, the plaque
was stolen by one or more unknown thieves. The thieves left
a calling card stating the site had been visited by the
KKK. The story immediately caught the attention of the international
media. The local citizens, enraged over the theft, vowed
to raise new funds to replace the stolen plaque.
Two months later a replacement plaque was installed. While
extensive search efforts were made to find the original
plaque, including dredging the waters along the dock area,
it has never been found. The plaque visitors see today is
the 1981 replacement plaque.
In 1997 the replacement plaque was raised and mounted on
a new pedestal which sits near the walkway site where it
had been previously installed. The new pedestal was designed
as one of the early components of a much larger Kunta Kinte-Alex
Haley Memorial site. The 1981 replacement plaque can be
seen today at its new resting place prominently displayed
beside the statue of Alex Haley.
section of text from the 1981 plaque
plaque's message, in part states:
To commemorate the arrival, in this harbor
of Kunta Kinte,
immortalizes by Alex Haley in Roots, and all others who
came to these shores in bondage and who by their toil,
character and ceaseless struggle for freedom have helped
to make these United States.
It is a message of tribute to the African Americans and
others who came in bondage and have contributed to the strength
and rich diversity of this Nation.
the original commemoration plaque at the September 21,
1981 dedication ceremony are from left Alex Haley, County
Executive Robert Pascal, Carl O. Snowden, Wendy Hinton,
and Governor Harry Hughes.
Haley arrives at Annapolis City Dock
for the 1981 plaque dedication
Bob Gilbert, The Capital)
The Compass Rose
A 14-foot diameter Compass Rose, inlaid in multi-colored
granite with a bronze center-piece, is located next to the
Annapolis, Maryland Market House, across from the City Dock.
The bronze centerpiece contains a map of the world, oriented
to true North, with Annapolis at is center. People who stand
on the center point of the map can turn and face the direction
of the homeland of their ancestors.
Reminiscent of compasses used by seafarers for centuries,
including the men who brought Kunta Kinte to Annapolis,
this marker touches many levels of the Haley's family story.
It reminds us that most people who came to America arrived
by boat. It inspires us to connect to our own genealogical
roots as Alex Haley did. And it suggests immigrants from
many lands help to chart America’s development.
Placed around the Compass Rose is special seating and night
lighting. A nearby information display stand explains the
Memorial and the meaning of each of its components.
Compass Rose, near Market House, Annapolis, MD
The Row of granite-framed markers along the City
seawall present ten sculpted bronze plaques. The plaques
share messages designed to encourage reconciliation and
healing from a legacy of slavery, ethic hatred, and oppression.
They include commentray and original art about translated
epigraphs from Alex Haley's messages in Roots.
The messages are universal in significance.
View, The Story Wall, City Dock, Annapolis, MD
back to top
The Sculpture Group is comprised of a life-size bronze statue
of a seated Alex Haley reading from a book on his lap, and
three life-size bronze sculptures of children from different
ethnic backgrounds. The Alex Haley statue portrays the late
Mr. Haley stretching his hand toward the Chesapeake Bay
while he tells the story of his family’s history to
the three children. The sculpture grouping becomes one with
the Bay. It is both intimate and inclusive.
One African-American girl and one Asian-American girl join
a European-American boy as they “listen” intently
to the master storyteller, Mr. Haley. Many a young child
has joined this trio, or sat on Alex’s lap to take
part in this wonderful opportunity to share their stories
with him. Walk by to witness these discussions, and you,
too, can experience some of the fond memories of your childhood,
when your elderly grandparents, aunts, uncles, and even
neighbors took time to share their stories with you.
On a clear day, sit on one of the many nearby benches and
enjoy the view of the Memorial’s sculptures as they
become one with the sea and the sky. Watch the local boaters
pull up to the Dock; greet Colonial docents in period costume
as they lead heritage area tourists through the bricked
streets of Annapolis; listen to the seagulls overhead; treat
yourself to a succulent crab cake or ice cream cone; view
midshipmen from the nearby Naval Academy enjoy a day in
town; and breathe in the fresh sea air. Don't forget to
bring your camera!
Sculpture Group, City Dock, Annapolis, MD